San Diego scores in final play of game to win shocker, 8-7

Christopher Maher, Alice Echo-News Journal

San Diego added another chapter to its Duval County rivalry with Freer Friday night, by stunning the Buckaroos in an 8-7 upset.

Down 7-0, San Diego's winning drive began with 4:10 left in the game, with the Vaqueros starting on their own 20-yard line. Six plays later, with 1:33 to go for the game, Freer had a chance to hold for the win as the Vaqueros were faced with a fourth down with four yards to go, from the Freer 37-yard line.

Quarterback Ramon Maldonado threw over the top and connected with Clemente Espinoza on a 13-yard pass, giving the Vaqueros a first-and-ten on the Buckaroos' 24-yard line. Following a sack for a loss and an incomplete pass, Maldonado hit Javier Maldonado with a 26-yard pass that brought San Diego to within three yards of the goal line.

With just 29-seconds to go in the game, the Vaqueros tried unsuccessfully three times to rush the ball in, but were stopped by the Freer defense each time. On the third play, Javier Maldonado's run attempt was stopped by a hoard of rushing Buckaroos in the backfield for a loss as time expired.

A flurry of yellow flags signaled offsetting penalties, however, with the Vaqueros cited for illegal procedure and the Buckaroos caught for a facemask. That gave San Diego one more play, with no time on the clock. Maldonado took the snap for the Vaqueros and handed off to Victor Chew, who momentarily looked to throw the halfback option. Buckaroos swarmed Chew, but as they brought him to the ground he was able to hand off to teammate Armando Solis, who stumbled forward and fell across the goal line for the touchdown, bring the score to 7-6.

San Diego head coach Tom Carrera opted to go for the two-point conversion rather than kicking for a tie, and Maldonado rolled to his right and connected with Chew in the right corner of the end zone, giving the Vaqueros an 8-7 victory.

It was the first win for San Diego since October 28, 2006, and broke a streak of 14 losses in a row. It was Carrera's first win since taking over the Vaqueros and, following the game, he said it was a big win, but he was already looking ahead.

"It was a good victory, it's bragging rights for a year," Carrera said. "It legitimizes the things we're trying to teach them. It tells the kids that hard work and dedication to the things that we're trying to teach them will give them a chance to be successful."

Carrera called the game a "war of attrition," which was demonstrated in the low yard totals for both teams. For the game, San Diego finished with a total of 171 yards, while Freer managed just 135. Maldonado finished the night completing 6 of 12 passes, for 65 yards.

Following a first quarter that saw both teams fighting for field position, the Buckaroos finally put points on the board in the second quarter. The Buckaroos used nine consecutive rushing plays to move the chains, but saw their drive stall out with 8:17 to go in the first half. Facing a fourth down with four yards to go on the San Diego 16-yard line, quarterback Matt Reyes rolled to his right off the snap and found Jake Acker just inside the right corner of the end zone for the touchdown. The extra point was good, giving Freer the 7-0 lead they would hold until game time expired.

Following the game, Freer head coach Joseph Alvarado questioned the penalties called on the final play of the game, but said his team had missed opportunities to win.

"San Diego played a great game. Any time you have a great rivalry like this, records go out the window, they proved that tonight," Alvarado said.

"We've got to learn that we play to win until the very end."